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Declaration sparks fierce debate

THE government’s decision to declare 12 notorious famo gangs as subversive and unlawful organisations triggered a furious public debate. Home Affairs Minister, Lebona Lephema, made the declaration in a gazette issued last week.

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The gazette is based on the Internal Security (General) Act of 1984 which gives the minister vast powers to deal with threats to internal security.

The list of those that have been branded subversive includes Terene ea Mokata-Lirope, Terene ea Chakela and Seakhi, which are the largest famo gangs.

The others are either factions or franchises of Seakhi.

The debate on the gazette has largely centred on whether declaring the organisations as subversive would help curb the scourge of violence and gruesome killings they have unleashed in communities.

There is a mixture of scepticism, cautious optimism and hostility towards the move.

But amidst the debate, there has been little focus on what it means to be declared a subversive organisation under the Internal Security (General) Act of 1984.

The decision is based on Section 10 which says “the Minister may, by notice of a Gazette, declare any organization unlawful if in his opinion that organization is involved in subversive activity or in promoting or encouraging it”.

That declaration “may be in the form of a name or description of such organization”.

The law gives the police the powers to arrest, detain and charge anyone who “belongs or professes to belong to an unlawful organization”.

It is a crime to solicit or invite “financial or other support for an unlawful organization or knowingly makes or receive any contribution in money or otherwise to the resources of an unlawful organisation”.

It is also a crime to tout or invite any person “to become a member of an unlawful organisation or to carry out on behalf of such an organisation, order, or direction given, or requests made, by a member of that organisation”.

Fines for those convicted range from M10 000 to M100 000. Prison sentences range between five and 20 years.

The police don’t need a warrant to arrest anyone they “reasonably” suspect to be involved in subversive activity. A suspect can be held in police custody for up to 14 days.

Staff Reporter

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